Rising Success

The company has over 500 locations in Australia and has brought what they’ve learned Down Under to their Canadian operations. “The history of the company is a great benefit.

Franchise Canada magazine
March 1, 2010

Rising Success
Passion is the key ingredient for COBS Bread franchisee Kevin Ker
Lauren d’Entremont

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Kevin Ker doesn’t mind coming in to see empty shelves in his COBS Bread franchise location when he arrives each morning. To him, seeing the shelves fill up with fresh-baked bread and other goodies only to be bare at the end of the day is a sign of success, both for his franchise business and his community.

“Seven days a week we’re baking from scratch. We track and calculate what we each day and any leftover product is donated to charity,” Ker explains. “It’s rewarding to come in to the store in the morning with empty shelves, work hard to fill the racks full of bread and then, at the end of the day, all of that goes to charity and you’re back ready to start again with empty shelves.”

Sounds simple, right? Ker says this simplicity was one of the key attractions when he became the first Ontario COBS Bread franchisee. “For me, the biggest thing was the product and the simplicity of the recipe for franchise success. It’s all about great bread, and doing one thing and doing it right,” he says.

A large part of doing it right means being actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the store. Ker usually starts his day in the bakery with the bakers at five or six o’clock in the morning.

“We’re very hands-on as franchisees, and we get involved with the bakers and the customers. We go in to make sure the bakers are on time and getting everything prepared for opening. We make sure the baking is going well and then I’m packaging products or out front helping with customers once we open,” says Ker. Any time he’s needed, Ker is at is at his location. Ker enjoys his time there, taking in the sights, smells and even sound of the bakery. “We ring a bell and announce it every time a product comes out of the oven warm and fresh. We try to have our cinnamon buns come out of the oven throughout the day because they’re very popular and that smell is just so great.”

Once the bakery and retail aspects of the store are running smoothly, Ker turns his attention to the organizational side. “Because we’re baking fresh every day, I need to be ordering ingredients and looking at sales patterns to prepare our production schedule.” One of the unique challenges of the bakery business; Ker needs to know exactly which products to bake each day and in what quantity so customers can always find what they’re looking for. There’s not a lot of room for error. “We have to have efficiency in production and our product planning has to be spot on. In other retail stores, you may have the ability to replenish your product from your storage areas and stockrooms as required,” Ker says. “In our store, it takes two to three hours to produce a product, so we need to be tracking sales by the hour to ensure we have enough product on the shelves, We need to forecast and make good decisions.”

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Ker admits that being actively involved in the daily operations of his business sometimes means long hours, but that it’s aright because it ends up equalling out. “It’s about being prepared for when you know you’ll be busy. Other times, you can step back a bit and balance your personal life with your professional life a bit more.” In the end, Ker says, the benefits far outweigh any of the challenges. “The best part is ownership, knowing that I can control my own destiny and decide how big or how far I can go.”

Being part of a franchise system like COBS helps Ker handle his daily tasks with ease. The company has over 500 locations in Australia and has brought what they’ve learned Down Under to their Canadian operations. “The history of the company is a great benefit. With 25-plus years in Australia, they have the systems and tools in place to help you succeed, especially with production and ordering. Any problem you have, someone else has probably been through it somewhere else along the way and they have the resources and tools to support you.”

Ker relies on many skills and attributes to see him through each day, especially the busy ones. “Everyone says I have a lot of patience,” he says, with a laugh. “We have a lot of students in our workforce, which can keep you young and can keep you on your toes, too. Multitasking is important because you have different things coming at you and you need to reassess as the day goes on.” Ker adds that his days, no matter how busy, are always enjoyable because he is passionate about COBS Bread and providing the best product and customer service possible. “A COBS Bread franchisee should be energetic and ready to stand behind their product,” he says. “Being a COBS franchisee is about the people on the other side of the counter, getting to know them and their families, their favourite products and the little things, like how they like their bread sliced. It’s rewarding to build relationships with customers.”

For anyone considering joining the COBS Bread team, Ker suggests thorough research, including stopping into a store, if possible, to sample the product. One of Ker’s personal favourites is COBS Bread’s Turkish Flatbread, which is handcrafted and has a full flavour. “Get as much knowledge as possible and, if it looks good, then start the process,” he advises. “Early on in the process, COBS has a two-day interview where you come in to a location for baking shift one day and a retail shift the next. It’s the best way to get a real feel for what we do before you get further involved in the process.”

Ker says joining COBS Bread is a unique opportunity to bring an established brand from overseas and introduce it to new customers here in Canada. “We’re ambassadors of the brand in many ways,” says Ker, referring to he and his fellow franchisees and employees. “We are re-educating customers about the benefits of healthy bread, that it’s better when it doesn’t come full of preservatives. It’s okay to buy bread fresh every day.”

COBS Bread Stats
Franchise Units in Canada: 22
Corporate Units in Canada: 40
In Business Since: 2003
Franchising since: 2006
Franchise Fee: $35K
Website: www.cobsbread.com
Available Territories: All of Canada
CFA Member Since: 2008

Canadian Franchise Association member


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